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Get online. Get your finances in line.

Guest article contributed by Belinda Louis, Director - Outsourced Finance at PwC Australia with Good Things Foundation Australia for Get Online Week 2021.

Even for small not-for-profits, keeping up with the latest developments in online financial services can help you to save time… and money!

This Get Online Week, we’ve partnered with PwC Australia to share our top tips on digitising your organisation’s finances, so you can focus on what you do best – supporting the community and advocating for change.

Transition to a cloud-based accounting platform

Many organisations are already using cloud based accounting technology. If your organisation is not, then it is time to plan your move across to an online service. 

Using cloud based accounting technology means that you can:

  • Securely access and view key financial information when you want, on any device
  • Give access to multiple users to make it easier to collaborate with your team and advisors
  • Have all of your data backed up automatically and your software automatically updated
  • Set up dashboard views to show important financial information such as bills due for payment and how your cash flow is looking
  • Integrate your online payments (eg bookings with a fee) or fundraising income with your accounting system to help you access the funds quickly

There are multiple add-ons to cloud based accounting technology that can make managing your organisation’s finances even easier, such as automatic invoice processing, and creating tailored financial reports. They usually will have inbuilt payroll, timesheet and employee expenses reimbursement functions.

Cloud based accounting technology does come with a fee. Usually this is a low monthly subscription fee and you should consider this along with a product’s features and security policies to select one that is right for your organisation’s needs.

Start the new financial year with a clean Chart of Accounts

Even if you are using cloud based accounting software, you still need to invest some time in setting it up to make it work efficiently for you.

Having a well organised Chart of Accounts (CoA) makes running your organisation much simpler. It will enable you to make meaningful comparisons across expense categories to better understand how you are going with your budgets. 

Often, charities need to track expenditure for each project and income stream for reporting purposes. Some services let you set up tracking categories within your Chart of Accounts, so you can tag all expenses related to a particular project and make end of project reporting simpler.

Set up Bank Feeds

Setting up a “Bank Feed” means that transactions in your online banking platform will automatically display in your cloud based accounting software. 

Bank feeds are designed to automate large sections of manual bookkeeping, helping to reduce admin and save you time. They can assist with up-to-date reporting and analysis to support decision-making in your organisation. 

An authorisation must be provided to your organisation’s bank to link the bank and accounting software for security purposes. This process can vary depending on the bank and the software.

Goodbye paper invoices!

If you are still receiving paper invoices and approving them by signing with a pen, then it’s time to consider moving your invoicing online. 

Automatic invoice processing tools are available which can integrate directly with your cloud-based accounting platform to capture receipts and invoices, extract the data and push it to your integrated accounting solution. This will dramatically reduce the time for data entry, and draft the transactions for your review in your cloud based software.  

Once reviewed by you (make sure to check their details to avoid scammers!), the invoices can also be sent for approval via the cloud-based accounting software. This eliminates the need for printing and having to have your payment approvals team onsite. The data from bills and receipts can be synced to the cloud-based accounting software and then be matched to bank feeds. 

All of these steps together will transform the traditional old system of printing bills and invoices to paperless accounting.

Keeping your online financial systems secure

When moving your financial systems online, it is critical to think about keeping them secure. Following the basics will help: strong passwords, being aware of phishing attempts, restricting access and keeping an eye on any unexpected changes to payment details. Take the time to educate your team on keeping your systems up to date and safe, and reviewing your information security procedures.

Make sure it is right for your organisation

There are lots of digital finance solutions out there. When picking software, designing new systems and moving your finances online, make sure to consider your own organisation’s circumstances, budgets and complexity of finances you are managing and do your research. While some cloud services will try to sell you on their fantastic features, you may not find it worthwhile to pay for the most expensive option with all the bells and whistles if you have a very simple set of accounts or a small number of users.

Don’t be afraid to ask the tech providers questions, check if they have a not-for-profit discount, and compare the products vs your needs to create your plan to digitise the finances at your organisation. 

Upskilling your team

Moving all your financial systems online can mean that people in your team will need upskilling on the new software and processes. Before you start, check in with your team on their digital skills and confidence so you know where to focus your efforts. Consider how it will impact both your volunteers and paid staff. 

Some people may need support getting set up to use online timesheets and having their payroll statements emailed to them, while others will be confident independently learning a new system. 

Free online courses that can help your team upskill can be found on Skill Finder. For digital beginners, look at free support offered through programs such as Be Connected.

You can also contact us if you need any further support or ideas around upskilling your team or digitising your organisations finances.